A battle of the political heavyweights at Small Business Debate sees SME vote swing to the right

The debate explored how policies would specifically affect small businesses.

The Tories suggested doing a complete review of the business rates system in 2016, with Labour pledging to cut and then freeze rates. Burt explained that the Lib Dems would scrap business rates, only to replace them with a Land Value Tax.

When it came to the budget, she also revealed there would be no “earth shattering” news ahead of the election – something Enterprise Nation believes implies that the Tories will be playing it safe.

Childcare costs were blamed for stalling the progress of entrepreneurial women. While Burt explained costs would be difficult to change because of market forces, Perkins pledged that his party would ensure that children could stay at school from 09:00am to 18:00pm.

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And as Hancock said the Conservative commitment to hold a referendum would ease “the public’s unhappy relationship with the EU,” Burt accused the Tories of creating uncertainty and “playing a dangerous game with the EU by flirting with the exit.”

Enterprise Nation founder Jones asked the audience to give their vote before and after the event. The first poll, before the debate, gave the Conservatives a six point lead over Labour at 37 and 31 per cent respectively. Lib Dems were on seven and the Greens on three, with 23 per cent undecided and one UKIP vote.

After a second vote, taken after the debate, it was revealed that the Conservatives had boosted their lead by another eight per cent to 45 per cent, with Labour trailing on 31 per cent, Lib Dems still on seven and the Greens adding two per cent. Ten per cent were still undecided with a rogue protest vote adding one per cent to the unrepresented UKIP.

Jones said: “Hopefully the political classes will have learned something from this experience – that small firms are worth listening to, that they are playing an increasingly important role in the electoral process and that by engaging with them, politicians can improve policy – and gain all-important votes.

“The fact that this event was organised and led by a small business shows we’re beginning to make progress. While big businesses continue to have a well-established route to the heart of government, we will continue to fight with events like this, to have our voices heard.” 

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